This seems to be the million dollar question to many parents of adolescent teens.
I wish I knew the answer. But, I do have some theories.
My wife and I were taken out for dinner by my sister and brother-in-law over the weekend…a belated anniversary gift.
Because we both have children, the conversation turned to children.
We both concluded after a heated conversation and three bottles of really good wine, that kids have an inability to properly socialize. The “social media” is making them less social. Despite websites like Facebook or Twitter that promote their ability to keep us connected with friends, interaction with friends through these social networks are through keyboard strokes, not human interaction.
My 13 year old daughter Molly, is a Facebook fanatic. Does she use it way too much? YES…guilty as charged. For right or for wrong, she is on there a lot, despite it not affecting her performance at school, as she seems to be maintaining very good grades. In a very small way, it has become somewhat of an addiction with her…and we are monitoring her usage very closely.
We have seen some of the chat with her friends on Facebook. Sometimes, it is nasty and malicious (fortunately, Molly is pretty good at not posting overly inappropriate comments on her Facebook page, but, we have seen the postings of some of her friends), often filled with foul language and silly rumors. They would never have the “balls” to do it in person, because they have been raised in a society that relies too much on technology for the simple task of communicating. Phone chats have been all but replaced by texting and hanging out with friends after school is now done via Skype or Facebook.
Was this Facebook’s original purpose? When I first got my account on Facebook a couple of years ago, my motivation was to search for long lost people from my youth to see what they looked like (if they had any hair left) and to see if they remembered me. Once I added them as a friend, beyond the initial “what have you been up to all these years” conversation, that was about it. Now, I use it to promote my blog, to look at pictures of friend’s kids, to communicate with someone that lives elsewhere in the world and to check up on my daughter!!
However, kids are now conversing with each other electronically instead of interacting face-to-face. As a guy in his mid-forties, I was raised in a world where computers and cell phones and Blackberry’s didn’t exist. If you had something to say to somebody you either called them on the phone or met them in person. Unlike words on a screen, sometimes its a subtle facial gesture, body language or verbal tone that says a lot about what someone is really thinking. Emoticons and expressions such as “lmao” and “omg” really don’t say much. Really…”lol”? Are you really laughing out loud?
As parents, what can we do? We must just learn to say no to our children, impose stricter parameters on their computer usage, monitor who they are talking to and what they are saying and finally, encourage them to talk….the ancient art of conversation. The Internet which allows us communicate to the world, is slowly taking away our ability to communicate with the world.